First Corinthians 12:1–11 . . .

Spiritual Gifts

Growing up, you've undoubtedly received a number of gifts. Likely, you were grateful for a good number of them; you likely showed your appreciation to the gift givers by saying "Thank you" a hundred times before putting your gift to good use. However, imagine that instead of opening a special gift with exuberance and gratitude, you opened the package, yawned, said "ho-hum," and casually laid the gift aside without expressing any appreciation or gratitude. How do you think your gift givers would have felt?

Now imagine how the Lord must feel when he gives gifts to his children but they don't make an effort to find out what the gifts are, never thank him for the gifts, and never put them to use. It must be incredibly disappointing to the Lord to see so many of his gifts merely shelved away and never used or shared with others. In 12:1–11, see this passage below), Paul makes two key points as he tells you to unwrap your gift and use it to serve others.

1)  Jesus is the validation of spirituality (vv. 1–3)  Before Paul discusses spiritual gifts, he wants to focus first on the common work of the Spirit in each of our lives. Paul indicates his concern that the Corinthians not be ignorant of certain truths about the things of the Spirit. While the Corinthians were the most gifted church in the Scriptures (see 1:5–7), they were a most carnal church, stricken with divisions, immorality, and distortion in doctrine. Please note: Having a great spiritual gift is no indication of spirituality. It's possible to be gifted yet not spiritual. In this case, the Corinthians were getting high on their spiritual giftedness without recognizing the source of the gift — Jesus Christ.

In vv. 2–3, Paul clarifies who possesses the Spirit: Every member of the Corinthian church who has trusted in Christ becomes indwelled by the Holy Spirit and is incredibly valuable to God.

2)  Variety is the spice of the church (vv. 4–11)  In this section, Paul highlights three gift effects: the source, the goal, and the distribution of our gifts. In vv. 4–6, we see that the source of our gifts is our triune God. In three verses, Paul uses "different kinds" (NIV and others) "varieties" (NASB and others) three times because God loves diversity and variety. Everyone has been created differently; God says that we're wonderfully different from one another. And he encourages diversity in his church by gifting each of us uniquely for ministry. Yet, in spite of this variety, believers are united by the same God. Each member of the Trinity has a role in spiritual gifts: the Holy Spirit distributes the gifts, the Lord Jesus places people in ministry, and Father God empowers people in their ministries.

Knowing and appreciating spiritual gifts better, we ought to respond appropriately to what we've been given. First, you must discover what spiritual gift the Holy Spirit has given you (v. 4). The Greek word for "gift" is charisma, from which we get our English words charisma and charismatic. Spiritual gifts enable a person to glorify and serve God; the one who exercises his or her gifts could rightly be called charismatic. These gifts aren't earned; they're not the result of hard work; they're often not ones we choose for ourselves. Remember, God hasn't gifted you to do what you want to do; he's gifted you to do what he wants you to do. How are you doing at using the gifts that he's given you?

Second, you must plug into one or more ministries (v. 5). Jesus died to give you the gift (charisma) of eternal life; but he also died so that you could serve him by using one or more of your spiritual gifts. God has given you a spiritual gift to benefit others around you. That is why it's a tragedy when you don't know what your spiritual gift is, if you're not in the process of finding out what it is, or if you're not using your gift for the body. God wants to know, "Who's benefiting from the gift that I gave you?" He challenges his children to "Unwrap your spiritual gift and use it to serve others.

Third, you must depend upon God for the results (v. 6). Now that Paul has described the source of our spiritual gifts, he gives their purpose. In 12:7, he writes, "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." This is the key verse in this section. Paul again reminds us that we've been given a spiritual gift for the benefit of others. Unfortunately, too many Christians are unaware of their unique spiritual gift(s); further, once they realize their gift(s), they sit on it, hide it, or keep it on a shelf. In these verses, God asks you which type of worker or servant you are: "Are you a 'consistent worker' or a 'convenience worker'?" Too many people have decided that they'll serve in their church only occasionally and when it's convenient. Instead, the church needs dedicated servants: people who don't merely attend church but become attached to church, making long-term commitments to serve and become dependable.

In vv. 8–10, Paul brings out the idea of the diversity of gifts as he lists nine of them. Paul closes this passage in 12:11 with these words: "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines." This is a great summary. It's also the fifth reference to the Holy Spirit being the giver of gifts, re-emphasizing that every believer is spiritually gifted. We're all called by the Lord to minister with the gifts that he's supplied.

It Makes You Wonder . . .
  • Q. 1  Do you want to discover your gift(s) so you can find your appropriate ministry or place of service?
  • Q. 2  What is your spiritual gift(s)? How are you currently putting your gift(s) to use?
  • Q. 3  When was the last time you expressed gratitude to God for the spiritual gift he's given you? How can you cultivate an attitude of gratitude that will propel you to serve Christ and his body?

This Week’s Passage
1 Corinthians 12:1–11

New International Version (NIV)
[You can view it in a different version by clicking here; you can also listen to this chapter.]

Concerning Spiritual Gifts

12 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.

4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.